Citation Guide Cliches Commas
Introductions Non-sexist Writing Guide Passive Voice
Peer Editing Avoid Plagiarism Proofreading
Prospectus Punctuation Quotations


Writing with Non-Sexist Language

"The need today, as always, is to be in command of language, not used by it, and so the challenge
is to find clear, convincing, graceful ways to say accurately what we want to say." (9)

A few hints on nonsexist language from "The Handbook of Nonsexist Writing", by Casey Miller and Kate Swift.

Man as a False Generic: "Development of the Uterus in Rats, Guinea Pigs, and Men" (11)

Writers who persist in using man in its old sense often slip unconsciously from the general meaning to the limited one. The switch, unfortunately, is rarely discernible to their readers, who have no way of telling that generalizations about human beings have become generalizations about males:

"As for man, he is no different from the rest. His back aches, he ruptures easily, his women have difficulties in childbirth." (15)
"A man who lies constantly needs a good memory" is clearer when a man is replaced by someone or anyone. Or better still " A chronic liar needs a good memory." (18)

Terms for the Human Species:

Used in broad, sweeping generalizations, man frequently--perhaps usually--conveys misinformation.

"Men have always hoped to conquer disease"

appears not only to disregard women's interest in ending illness but also to ignore the important advances toward that goal made by women.

It would be better to write:

"Human beings have always hoped to conquer disease."


"The conquest of disease has always been the goal of human societies." (20)

Job Titles:

Job titles ending in man date from a time when only males performed the jobs described. Not so today. Furthermore, sex-differentiating titles often adopt two separate pay scales. Or the language may act as a code, subtly indicating sex or age as a prerequisite for a job.(37)

airline steward, stewardess     

flight attendant

forelady, foreman



house worker


sales agent, sales associate





Pronoun Problem:

"I corrected a boy for writing `no one....they' instead of `no one... he,' explaining that `no one' was singular. But he said, `How do you know it was a he?'" (47)

Although it may have been drilled into our heads that grammatically the singular "he" is correct, the above argument can be made for using "they."

Other alternatives include eliminating the pronoun:

A handicapped child may be able to feed and dress himself.


A handicapped child may be able to eat and get dressed without help.(52)

Or using a plural construction:

Handicapped children may be able to feed and dress themselves.

Addressing the reader directly with "you," or using some sort of combination of pronouns (s/he, his/hers), or shifting to "one" are all other ways to avoid this dilemma.

Other ways language becomes sexist:

Corporate wives, Senate wives, faculty wives-- "women thus identified as appendages both of a man and of an institution" (64)

Mrs. Henry Smith-----------> Jane Smith

"Powerful lady attorney and confident young lawyer team up to defend a wealthy contractor accused of murder." TV listing.

Question: What sex are the confident young lawyer and the wealthy contractor?(66)